Its over a week since Xubuntu 13.10 was released which is based on Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander and I finally got time to take a look at it. If you are new to this, then know that Xubuntu is a Xfce desktop based spin/variant of Ubuntu. It is not a derivative, just the same ubuntu wrapped with the xfce desktop. So you got the same repositories of software to use and everything else that is there in the original Ubuntu.
Xubuntu gives you all the power of ubuntu with a lightweight desktop that is not cumbersome to work with. Xfce offers a clean conventional style desktop ideal for those who want to focus more on getting things done. Xubuntu packs xfce with the greybird theme which makes the desktop look very pragmatic. Its my favorite theme on both Lubuntu and Xubuntu.
Lightweight Ubuntu alternative
The lightweight nature of xubuntu makes it a good choice for low-spec pcs and netbooks/notebooks where you don't want to waste resources un-necessarily. I use it on my Samsung n110 netbook without any issues. Xubuntu's simplicity also makes it ideal for work environments where functionality and productivity is most important.
However, do not expect it to be super fast, because its only the desktop environment that is lightweight, the rest of ubuntu system (and linux beneath it) are in full size.
Therefore its not a distro for slow/old machines. For slow and old machines you need an entirely lightweight linux distro like puppy linux. When using desktop like xfce or lxde with optimum configuration, you can definitely expect to free up some ram and cpu.
Xubuntu being a close variant of Ubuntu sees most changes only in the desktop environment. Here is a list of updates that took place in 13.10
A tool for changing your theme colors easily, gtk-theme-config, has been added to the default installation
New releases of our Gtk themes (with Gtk3.10 support) as well as the LightDM greeter, fixing many visual bugs
So go ahead and download the isos from http://xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/ and burn them to a dvd or write to a flash drive with Unetbootin.
You can either install it, or try it out in live mode. For the purpose of this review, I am driving Xubuntu inside VirtualBox.
So right after booting you get to a simple looking gnome 2 style desktop with some icons and 2 menu bars. One on top and the other at the bottom. The top menu bar has the application menu on the left. On the right there is the volume control applet, network manager applet, datetime, and pager applets.
The bottom menu is made to appear like a dock that hides by itself when out of focus. It has icons for firefox, file browser, terminal etc that can make it easier to launch applications. Not sure if it fits well or not, I would rather not have it there. Its simple, just right click and remove it. The right click on the desktop provides the applications menu the same way as the icon on top left. Its convenient enough.
The default font being used is Droid Sans, which is one of the best and my default choice. The icon theme resembles the elementary OS icon styles.
Customise the desktop
Much of the desktop is already well configured for best performance. You may want to change the wallpaper. Just right click on the desktop and open desktop settings and changing the wallpaper should be easy. However there aren't any additional wallpapers, so you need to get some from somewhere.
The Settings Manager is the control center from where you can manage all settings related to desktop, hardware, printing, network etc. Its very simple in design and doesn't need a lot of technical knowledge.
Check out one of my previous post on how to make your menus fast. It will make all menus open instantly.
Here is a list of the main applications you would see in Xubuntu 13.10
Thunar file browser
Parole Media Player
Ristretto Image Viewer
As can be seen, Xubuntu omits large sized applications and chooses lightweight alternatives. For text editing its mousepad and not gedit. For office suite its abiword, gnumeric instead of openoffice or libreoffice. Fits the style well.
Adding new software
Xubuntu packs only a minimal set of applications with the iso. To add/remove more applications, Xubuntu uses the same Ubuntu software center. Use the search box on top right to find the desired application and install it. The software center lists out both paid and free applications.
You could also install and use synaptic package manager (like I do) if that feels simpler and quicker. I am however a fan of the apt-get and aptitude commands and use those more often.
Flash is absent by default. So to get flash support inside firefox install the flashplugin-nonfree package from the repositories.
$ sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree
Youtube now supports html5 so videos would play even without the flash plugin installed.
Install to hard drive
This does not need much discussion, since installing ubuntu or any linux distro now a days is far easier than installing any application on windows or windows itself.
Click Install Xubuntu on the welcome screen or the Install Xubuntu icon on the desktop when in live mode. Just make sure you got enough resources to run linux on your box. Not having a dedicated graphics unit is fine, but do have atleast 1GB of RAM with 2 or more cores of CPU.
Well then ...
So it was a nice ride at the new Xubuntu. Use it if you hate the gnome 3 shell and ubuntu unity or if you do not like KDE. It brings the entire power of Ubuntu without the messy unity desktop. The repositories have most of the software you need. So just fire up software center or apt-get and get the goodies. If you are looking for a simple yet powerful linux distro that is easy to start with, then I would definitely recommend Xubuntu.
Another lightweight desktop is LXDE and when combined with Ubuntu the product is called Lubuntu which is another great choice for a lightweight ubuntu spin. I found both the distros to be fast and equally good so choose either.
For help and support on Xubuntu check out the following url
If you are planning to install Xubuntu, also check out the list of known problems.
Xubuntu is about simplicity and speed. Hope you have a nice time with Xubuntu. Good luck!!